When she smiled with her lips slightly parted I thought that any woman would be envious of her. She wore a black dress and her mass of wavy black hair tied up. Her beauty was indescribable. She exuded a social and cultural confidence to which I felt I could never aspire. We said nothing about our past, or present, relationships.
I adore Mahler,’ smiled Kirsten. ‘I feel I’ve been on an epic journey ... His obsession with death is evident, even to me. Then the triumph, the wonderful pinnacle of the final movement.’ Her gaze transferred to the boats dancing in rhythm on the water. ‘He was obviously passionately in love. What about you? Have you been in love?’ She scrutinised my face with amused tolerance and satisfaction. 'Answer me,' she said, delicately touching my hand.
The night was warm, and a soft, impatient wind blew across the greyish blue river. 'I prefer to say hello than goodbye. Hello radiates an air of anticipation, the beginning of something either funny or tragic.' Already I felt a deep affection for Kirsten, bordering on attraction.
'You still haven’t answered my question.’ She playfully poked my ribcage.
I looked at her, and smiled. ‘Tell me the truth about love ...’
‘When it comes will it come without warning, just as I'm picking my nose?’ Kirsten recited, her voice breathy and passionate.
‘Would you care to go for a walk, something to eat?' I said. 'French? Covent Garden?'
As we walked across the Millennium Bridge our hands accidentally touched. Kirsten smiled and kissed me on the mouth. I felt my heart rise. Then she turned away to look at the light in the stars. I noticed a suggestion of sadness in her eyes. Kirsten laughed softly and breathed in the night air. 'What an engaging night. Let's make it a memorable one.' Her voice was clear and winsome.
She leaned towards me and grabbed my hand. Her smile, like the destined light of day, became a laugh. Kirsten half closed her eyes and slightly tilted her head to let the tender trembling wind caress her eyelids. Her softened eyes still revealed a hint of sadness.
‘That’s what it’s called.’
‘Very funny. Are you travelling with anyone else?’ asked the prettiest woman in the restaurant.
‘Hopefully the pilot.’
‘How long will you be gone? I’m already missing your acerbic wit.’
‘Hard to say. I’ve been east. I believe it's time to go west. In fact, that reminds me. I'm booked in for a bikini wax tomorrow morning.’ We continued to eat and converse, attracting disgruntled glances from fellow diners'.
Once outside the restaurant we became insensitive to the surroundings. We kissed like two lovers in sensuous harmony and balance; as if we existed outside of time, outside of monotonous existence, outside of ordinary life.
As Kirsten sat in the taxi, she held out her hand. I briefly kissed the fingers of her right hand. Her engaging face was calm. 'Goodbye, and thank you,' she said. As the taxi drove off I still felt warm and sensual. As if I was part of some secret, beautiful and distant world.
*Reflections: Beauty and love are inexpressible and ephemeral. Your heart may rise as you recall a romantic encounter, a kiss, a chance meeting, a pleasure in your life; but it is just a memory. One should not live with illusions of happiness, love, or, beauty, as one gets older. For there are only moments of anticipation, passion, and desire, that fill one's life. Only surprising and beautiful moments.